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the great wilderness between Judea and Egypt'; and therefore intimates the bride's coming from that quarter: and the additional, circumstance of Solomon going out to ineet her, strongly intimates that she was a princess of the first rank.
Bishop PERCY indeed insinuates, as a difficulty, that the bride is called a prince's, and not a king's daughter; whereas the kings 'of Egypt were certainly of the highest rank and greatest consequence. The original term, however, appears to be general - ; for all kings are princes, though all princes are not kings; and we certainly mean no disparagement to our sovereigns, when we call them princes of the • house of Brunswick.' It is not clear, how. ever, but the passage alluded to inay be a complintent to the lady's mental charms, since the Hebrew idiom has induced some respectable critics to render the expression, 'O princely • daughter'-( lady of a noble and excellent disposition, and character; and it may be worthy of remark that the corresponding Greek word', signifying benefactor, was assumed as a sirname of the highest honour by a later Egyptian monarch, Ptolomy Euergetes, and other princes.
Another objection to the bride's being an Egyptian princess has been drawn from her complaint, that her mother's children had been
See Deut. xi. 24.
See 1 Sam. ii. '8.- Prov. xxv. 7. compared with ver. 6, &c. Ευεργέτης.
severe unto her, and had made her keeper of the vineyards. If she were a younger sister, and distinguished by her wit and beauty, it is not wonderful that she should have been envied and hated by them : though by being made keeper of the vineyards, there is no reason to understand any thing more than sending her to a country seat, intended by the vineyards, as if she had been to look after them, and by this means exposing her to the fervour of the sun-beams, in which she had neglected her beauty, which is what I understand literally by her vineyard--a familiar metaphorical expression used for any kind of employment which required care and management.
Mr. HENLEY'thinks it an important and unanswerable objection to the bride's being an Egyptian lady, that pastoral images are employed; for shepherds, we know, were an. abomination to the Egyptians ?;' and that because, as Jonathan, in his Targúm, observes, • The Hebrews ate what the Egyptians worshipped. But, not to say that some revolu, '
. tion of sentiment might take place in the course of several centuries; as the same country had once a race of shepherd kings: Not to insist on this, it is to be observed, that the author of the poem is not supposed to be an Egyptian; and as to the lady herself, it is generally believed that she was a proselyte to the worship of JeHoVall, before her marriage : and there is this
apparent good reason for it, that she is
1 In Lowth's Lect.
2 Gen. xlvi. 34.
evidently distinguished from those wives which turned away Solomon's heart, to the idols of their respective nations, among whom those of Egypt are neither named nor hinted at': now admitting her to be a convert to Judaism, this objection is completely obviated.
On the other hand, I think, there are some images employed, beside those already named, that strangely favour our idea, that the bride was Pharoah's daughter, and the allusions to Pharoah's horses and his chariots appear to me clearly of that number.
OF THE NATURE OF THE POEM.
LET us now examine the nature of the coinposition considered as poetic. The Jews allow this book to be so far poetic, as being of the parabolic kind, but not metrical : wherefore they have not distinguished it with their poetic accents ; nor is it ever written by them in a versified form, as the psalms are". This, however, is merely the effect of their ignorance, since the book carries with it
character (except in the points) belonging to Hebrew poesy, and is now fully admitted to be
such by bishop Lowth, and the best Hebræans. Indeed, if the ideas given in the former essay, on the nature of Hebrew poetry, be right, the fact is incontrovertible; and if they be not right, we have yet to seek the nature of the Hebrew poetry.
It has been somewhat disputed among the critics, whether this poem is to be reckoned a PASTORAL or not: but this is little more than a dispute about terms. If Theocritus and Virgil are to be made the standard of this species of composition, it certainly will not endure the test of criticism : but the most excellent writ. ers in any style can hardly be supposed to have been the first: and the laws of Hebrew pastoral are only to be drawn from writers in that language; I mean from the sacred writers, who frequently mixed with images strictly pastoral, others derived from different sources; as we see in the twenty-third psalm, the finest pastoral in that language. And the introduction of images borrowed from royalty, intermixed with the affairs of shepherds', are so far from improper or inconsistent, that I think there is a peculiar beauty in their being mingled or united. The most splendid objects were simple in their origin, and from the pastoral life were probably borrowed all the ancient insignia of royalty. For instance, a shepherd was a king or ruler of his sheep; and a good king the shepherd of his people. The office of government is compared to that of feeding flocks, because it should be exercised for the public good. The sceptre of the monarch is borrowed from the shepherd's staff, and his crown, perhaps, was but an improvement of the shepherd's garland. These analogies very sufficiently justify the intermixture of images which have been unjustly deemed incongruous'. And, I am inclined to think, the neglect of this circumstance has led commentators into improper methods of interpretation : and that by the bridegroom's feeding among the lilies, &c. is literally intended the exercise of his regal government with equity and moderation; as the going forth by the footsteps of the flock is a figurative term for obedience, and the following good examples.
1 Harmer, p. 2.
If the terin EPITHALAMIUM is to be taken for a poem sung to the new-married couple in the nuptial bed, it cannot be applied to this song?; but if taken in a larger sense for a nuptial poem only, I see no great impropriety in such an application.
The question whether this be a DRAMATIC
1 Mr. Harnier hints that only two verses at most are pastoral; but this surely is a mistake; for wherever the speakers talk of woods and mountains, fields and gardens, roes and gazels-wherever they speak of feeding among lilies, &c. are not all these images borrowed from the pastoral, or first simple state of rural life? So Dr. Blair observes, . The • Song of Songs affords us a high exemplification of pastoral poetry.—It is a dramatic pastoral, or a perpetual dialogue
between personages in the character of shepherds; and, • suitably to that form, it is full of rural and pastoral images • froin beginning to end.' Blair's Lect. vol. III. Lect. XLI.
- Harmer, p. 3